Reflections on the late wrestling legend, Ricky Gibson
On Sept. 15, wrestling legend Ricky Gibson passed away at the age of 53. With more than 25 years in sports-entertainment, Gibson is most famed for his time in NWA and was the first Superstar to ever perform a dropkick from off the top rope. A very close friend of Gibson, Michael "P.S." Hayes, offered a truly personal glimpse into the career of this Pensacola, Fla. wrestling great.
The sports-entertainment world lost one of it's first young, high-flying pioneers last Friday, Sept. 15 when Ricky Gibson died of a heart attack.
Ricky was one of the first competitors that could walk the top rope like a cat and may have had the best dropkick ever. Ricky was from Pensacola, Fla. and was the first Pensacolian to break in the business and make a success of himself. He was truly an inspiration to all of us from the Gulf Coast Wrestling area, especially yours truly.
Ricky's dad used to haul the ring for the promotion which led to Ricky being around the business, allowing him to get the proverbial foot in the door. Getting your foot in the door was next to impossible back then unless you knew someone, or was related to someone already in, unlike today. Today, there are millions of people training wannabe wrestlers and trainers themselves who should have never been let into the business and don't know enough about wrestling or the business, that they have no right to train anyone.
Back in the day, getting into sports-entertainment was like trying to get in the Mafia. I'm really happy for the advancement of the business, but, boy, do I miss those days of not just letting any jack-off into the business.
Ricky started by selling Cokes, programs, putting up the ring and eventually being a referee (something most of us had to go through back then - it's called earning your stripes). I remember the first time Ricky wrestled on television, he got massacred. This would happen many times.
Ricky's big break came in a different way when Ricky went up against the "man" at the time, Don Fargo. Don't get me wrong, Ricky still got his ass kicked, but it's what happen afterwards that changed Ricky's career. Ricky would come back week after week and take on Fargo, and each week Ricky would get his ass kicked. But each week, Ricky would make more progress against Fargo. Each week, the fans would get more and more behind Ricky. I know because I was one of them, sitting in the balcony seats watching, using my three-dollar allowance for mowing the yard to go watch the show every Sunday at the Pensacola Auditorium.
Ricky would later hit the road and have success in Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. I know this because one of my best friends is Ricky's brother, Robert Gibson, from the Rock 'n' Roll Express, who I grew up with. Robert, long before his days of fame, was Rueben to me, and was also the head of the ring crew at WEAR TV Channel 3 in Pensacola, Fla.
The day that Robert and I were at the bowling alley and Robert asked me if I wanted a job on the ring crew, I literally thought I'd died and gone to heaven. This was my big break, little did I know, it turned out later that it really was my break. I'll always owe Robert for that.
I can remember when Robert would say that Ricky was coming home from wrestling somewhere else. It was a major deal to Robert and I because Ricky had made it! Ricky got out of Pensacola and was a star! It's funny, we all always wanted to get out of Pensacola and become stars, then, when we did, we would always try to find a way to get back to Pensacola and the prettiest beaches in the world.
One of my favorite stories about Ricky was one day when my best friend, John Frenkel (who would later come to fame as Hollywood John Tatum) and I were at the beach and low and behold, we spotted Ricky with a number of girls (there's a big surprise).
Now, just for some background, it was Johnny who turned me on to wrestling when I was about 10 or 11, but anyway, we freaked out seeing Ricky Gibson, live and in person, just right over there!
"Should we go talk to him?" we thought, "Nah, he's talking to chicks."
How could we get his attention? Well, here's where we did one of the stupidest things we had ever done (I think I can speak for both me and Johnny, and that's saying something because we've done a lot of stupid things).
Johnny and I just commenced having a pro-wrestling match right there in front of a crowded Pensacola beach, complete with suplexes in the sand and anything else we could think of. Keep in mind we were only about 11 or 12 years-old, with no training, so everything hurt like hell. We did anything to get Ricky's attention. "Do you think he saw that? I don't know, do it again," we said.
I think Ricky may have glanced over once or twice, but our competition looked a lot better than we did. Nevertheless, this is a great memory.
As I stated earlier, I later became great friends with Robert and also Ricky, and I am proud to say that myself and Terry Gordy got to work against the Gibsons...what a team.
I'm going to miss Ricky. I only wish so many of you knew of him so you could miss him too because, trust me, you don't know what you missed!
I challenge others that knew Ricky and have great stories to write in to WWE.com.
WWE has a live event in Pensacola on Oct. 7. I intend on being there, and I intend on having the bell tolled one last time for Ricky in his home town at the Pensacola Civic Center.
Goodbye, my friend, my inspiration. We'll see you on the other side. God Bless.